Pass Rush Could Prove Critical to Both Virginia Tech and Syracuse in Preventing a Shootout

Both the Hokies and the Orange will likely be bringing plenty of pressure this weekend.

[Michael Shroyer]

For the first time in years, Virginia Tech has an offense with enough explosiveness to win in a shootout, and Syracuse's high-flying offense just might require Justin Fuente's scheme to keep up in that sort of game.

The Hokies are surely hoping that Bud Foster's defense can put the clamps on the Orange's 12th ranked passing attack, and the unit certainly proved its mettle by walloping UNC's vaunted offense last week. But if Tech should struggle to slow down efficient QB Eric Dungey and the nation's leading receiver in Amba Etta-Tawo, can the offense score enough to match Dino Babers' rapid pace?

Syracuse's defense likely won't offer much in the way of resistance β€” the Orange are allowing just over 475 yards per game, including 273.5 yards per game through the air β€” but the Hokies are at least wary of DC Brian Ward's propensity to bring pressure.

"They have a good scheme, do a great job mixing up their calls," Fuente said on a call with reporters Wednesday. "Their movement up front causes a lot of people problems. We'll certainly have our hands full handling all of those things that they can throw at you."

Indeed, Fuente cautioned that "they like to move up front" and "will bring pressure from the perimeter," and is passing that message along to his offense. RB Travon McMillian said Tuesday that he'll be ready to be called on early and often in pass blocking, expecting that "I'm gonna have to be really good in pass protection and striking with my hands and moving my feet."

Yet so far, the Hokies have been quite effective at keeping Jerod Evans upright (they've allowed just seven sacks this season, tied for the 26th best rate nationally) and Syracuse hasn't been wildly successful at disrupting opposing passers.

The Orange have 10 sacks this season (tied for 83rd overall), and their front seven does seem to be at least adequate when it comes to generating impactful plays β€” the Orange rank 82nd nationally in Football Outsiders' front seven "havoc rate," which accounts for the unit's total tackles for loss, passes defensed and forced fumbles divided by its total plays.

But Babers recognizes that the Hokies have enough talent on the outside that he won't be able to fully commit to coming after Evans, and will have to drop plenty of players back in coverage as well.

"We're probably going to do a little bit of both, and I think that you have to have the ability to do both just in case one is better than the other or just in case one is not very good, and you need to lean more heavily on the other one," Babers said on the call with reporters. "We're going to probably for the most part be balanced in that situation."

Further complicating matters will be the temporary absence of starting DE Kendall Coleman for the first half. Babers announced Wednesday that redshirt senior De'Jon Wilson will temporarily take Coleman's place, thanks to the true freshman's targeting penalty against Wake Forest last week.

Even still, Fuente believes the defensive line could pose problems for the Hokies.

"They do have some younger guys out there playing, but they're certainly playing with great effort," Fuente said. "Their technique has gotten better since the season started. I think it's apparent. They're obviously being well-coached in their schemes and their techniques. Those kids have very bright futures, in my opinion."

On the other hand, Babers is less confident in his secondary. The Orange have allowed opposing QBs to complete 56.1 percent of their passes so far (tied for 40th nationally), but they're tied for 112th with their 8.4 yards allowed per pass. The defensive backs are a problem area in particular, ranking 127th in the whole FBS in DB havoc rate.

"We've been decimated back there," Babers said. "We've got people rolling in and out of the lineup back there, and it's hard to be extremely consistent, outside of (CB) Corey Winfield, I'm not sure we've been consistent at any of the other three spots back there."

Babers was equally worried about his young offensive line, particularly on the interior. For Foster to effectively limit Dungey and the rest of the offense, it would seem that he'll have to attack that weak spot.

"When you start putting talented young players on the football field, they're still young, and you get them against some experienced guys that are older and more mature, and there's going to be physical breakdowns," Babers said. "Then you start getting into the scheme of things where the other coaches can be extremely creative with some of the things that they're doing as far as pressures and things like that, and with not having a lot of experience on the offensive side, especially in the interior offensive line, it can be very difficult for them to handle mentally some of the things that are going on."

Syracuse has allowed 16 sacks so far (ranking 106th overall in that category), including five against Wake Forest alone last week. Tech has 11 sacks on the season (tied for 69th nationally), but with an overall havoc rating that ranks third in the country, there's clear room for Foster's bunch to take advantage of that disparity.

"It's fun to watch them play, but it's not fun to know that you've got to play them," Babers said. "It's a combination of all those things; outstanding personnel, fantastic scheme with a cool operator calling it."

Comments

Dino Babers makes excuses for losing before the ball is even kicked off...

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

I'd hardly consider acknowledging the challenges he's gonna face as making excuses

I was just struck by the differences in coach speak (or is it the tone?):

Fuente - "They've got a lot of future talent there"
Babers - "We suck right now"

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

I actually really like Dino. I think he might get SU competing soon. Not for the ACC, but up towards 8 wins with some upsets.

Couldn't have said it any better. I thought he was a great hire for 'Cuse. Liked him at BG. If he can get a pulse on the defensive side, they could become an average program and pull a few upsets every once in awhile!

Another white bronco? The first one didn't go too far.

I actually enjoy watching them on offense a lot. Defense is a wreck for them obviously. I hope we pummel them, but I wouldn't mind seeing them light up FSU this season.

Wow. Save it for the "Hatin' on" forum.

/s

Just not this week pls

HTHokie93

Don't know much about him. But it seems like he'll build SU
into a good team, which can only be good for the ACC. All for it.

What's wrong with that? He's right. Is it really an excuse if they just aren't as good as the players on the other side of the ball?

I have no idea why my username is VT_Warthog.

Arkansas blew a 24-0 lead in the Belk Bowl.

If I was one of his players and I read that, it would not exactly fill me with confidence or inspire my best effort. But maybe that's just me.

BTW, is there a specific number of times each coach is required to say the other team is "well-coached" in each interview? Or is it up to the individual as long as they get to 100 by the end of the season?

"Our job as coaches is to influence young people's lives for the better in terms of fundamental skills, work ethic, and doing the right thing. Every now and again, a player actually has that effect on the coaching staff." Justin Fuente on Sam Rogers

I wonder if those public comments play into his motivational pitch for the season. 'We may not be the best individually, but we can be the best team on game day"

not that it matters tomorrow, because we have the talent and the teamwork edge.

Sounds like the defense is going to cause Havok in the backfield all day against Syracuse.

Counting on it! I'm sure Bud will plan a new and unique attack to rock Syracuse like they have never seen before!

I want to see a variety of sacks on Saturday.....

Another white bronco? The first one didn't go too far.

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

with a cool operator calling it

Never heard anybody describe Bud that way. Not just DC, DCO. Sounds like a fan.

Sometimes we live no particular way but our own

Is it Bud or Evans he is talking about?

The Dude Abides

the context was that he was talking about the VT defense

If a tree falls in Scott Stadium does it make a sound?

What's not explicitly said here is that Syracuse OL are ALL first year starters.

Against a Bud Foster defense.

Ouch.

I've been hesitant about picking blowout games this season given the demons of mediocre seasons in recent memory. However, this team has continued to surprise me since the Tennessee game. I think they are in a good position to do some real damage to a very young, porous Syracuse defense. I think Fu and Corny establish a solid game plan, utilizing the run game early and often. I see Jerod having solid numbers overall and a big game from C.J. Carroll. Brandon Facyson will surely be put to the test this weekend against the leading WR in the ACC, Amba Etta-Tawo. I think Etta-Tawo will probably have a decent game, but nothing great. I believe this defense will bring pressure again and again and will force Dungey to make bad throws. I expect Syracuse to have at least 4 turnovers in this game. I think our offense will have some hiccups on the first couple of drives but will ultimately play a great game. I foresee Travon having a substantial game and Greg Stroman adding to his already impressive interception total. My prediction -
VT 63
Syracuse 24

"That's Houdini!"

- Jon Laaser 9/24/2016

Our first couple drives aren't always productive. I think Fuente uses the first couple drives to set things up, getting the defense accustomed to certain tendencies. Then, he takes advantage of their over-reaction in subsequent drives.

I haven't been as concerned this year when we don't have significant drives early in the game, for this very reason.

While I'm not quite as optimistic, I love your score prediction!

Can't let GT hold the ball for the entire qtr while we find our footing in November.

___

-What we do is, if we need that extra push, you know what we do? -Put it up to fully dipped? -Fully dipped. Exactly. It's dork magic.

I like your prediction! ... Coach, make it so

I just have way too much Carrier Dome Anxiety Syndrome to not be worried Saturday.

It's just different.

Leonard. Duh.

Leonard just go to your happy place!

"Hey Bud, you wont have to hold the opponent to 17 points anymore."

I think Etta-Tawo gets the Ryan Switzer treatment. Cuse's hurry-up offense gets lots of three-and outs that take 25 seconds off the clock and give their defense about two minutes of rest. By the middle of the third quarter Motley is handing the ball off to D. J. Reid.

"Our job as coaches is to influence young people's lives for the better in terms of fundamental skills, work ethic, and doing the right thing. Every now and again, a player actually has that effect on the coaching staff." Justin Fuente on Sam Rogers

By the middle of the third quarter Motley is handing the ball off to D. J. Reid. Lawson is handing the ball off to Drew Harris.

FTFY

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

I doubt the fix is right since Lawson left the program...

This is why the Lawson joke (and Drew Harris for that matter) still exists. I love it.

Using /s is for cowards.

Welcome to The Key Play. I see that you are new here.

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

let me see if I can get this right...
ahem.

"TKP Harder!"

Welcome to TKP. Have a leg on me.

6-5, 10-1-1, 2-9, 3-8, 6-4-1, 6-5, 5-6, 2-8-1, 9-3, 8-4, 10-2, 10-2, 7-5, 9-3, 11-1, 11-1, 8-4, 10-4, 8-5, 10-3, 11-2, 10-3, 11-3, 10-4, 10-3, 11-3, 11-3, 7-6, 8-5, 7-6, 7-6, 10-4, 9-4, 6-7, 8-5..........

Oh and just to give you a heads up on the "joke" that everyone is referring to you can take a look at the official QUICK REFERENCE TO TKP MEMES/INSIDE JOKES.

Using /s is for cowards.

You should try to TKP harder

"That move was slicker than a peeled onion in a bowl of snot." -Mike Burnop

I was responding to the guy who responded to the joke since he's new to TKP.....

Using /s is for cowards.

Is etta-tawo even a slot type receiver? With his size i'm assuming he's not.

This should be a game where we can really break off some good runs between the tackles with TM and MW. Then kill the secondary with play action. Control tempo and keep SUbfrom getting any offensive rhythm. Pound the rock boys!!

"It's fun to watch them play, but it's not fun to know that you've got to play them," Babers said. "It's a combination of all those things; outstanding personnel, fantastic scheme with a cool operator calling it."

My favorite coach-speak compliment ever.

HTHokie93

the Orange rank 82nd nationally in Football Outsiders' front seven "havoc rate,"

This guy eats HAVOC for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If there are any leftovers he has a midnight snack.

"Hey Bud, you wont have to hold the opponent to 17 points anymore."

So what you're saying is Evans is going to be starving after this game?

"HAVOC is an important part of this great breakfast!"

If you hit their QB a few times, he will start to throw his passes quicker and the timing is completely shot when that happens. Just from what I have noticed the couple of times I have watched them. ND defense finally got to him and they are almost as bad as the Cuse. I think the over / under could be above 80 this week.

So, bracket the big WR and blitz like hell. Sounds fun.

Stick it in! Stick it in!

Highly probable we won't have to blitz to get pressure.

Actually I wouldn't be surprised by 6 sacks Saturday

But if we do blitz.....

King Alum of the House Hokie, the First of His Name, Khal of the Turkey Legs, The rightful Heir to the Big Board, the Unbanned, Breaker of Trolls and Father of Gritty

Dino is pretty interesting and he's definitely one of the best interviews in the acc. That may be the extent of the positive takeaways for 'cuse this weekend though if the BudFu maturation process continues on its current trajectory.

Hakuna Mihota

This is a terrible matchup all over the field for Syracuse. Unless VT has a negative turnover margin of 4 or 5, I don't see this game being remotely competitive.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

I believe VT will win, but I can't help feeling like we (the fans) are underestimating Syracuse. Last time we played a team that runs a similar offensive scheme was Tulsa and if I recall, that game became a shootout.

Don't get me wrong folks, I'd love to see VT win, but I get this feeling that we are underestimating this Syracuse squad. At the very least, their primary WR has me concerned. Amba Etta-Tawo is 6'2" and 202 lbs; the few games I've seen him play, he doesn't go down very easily when tackled.

Then there is the Carrier Dome itself. From what I understand, there is no air conditioning, which is really ironic, so it is very muggy/humid inside that dome. I've also seen plenty of opposing defenses cramp up playing against Syracuse at the Dome.

Hopefully, Fuente and Foster has a good game plan and have all these factors taken into account, rendering this post moot. Go Hokies!

Go Hokies!

To be fair, VT did all their shooting in the first half and Tulsa finally got going in the 2nd. Can BudFu preserve a large halftime lead? ECU showed a spark.

___

-What we do is, if we need that extra push, you know what we do? -Put it up to fully dipped? -Fully dipped. Exactly. It's dork magic.

I, too, have a sense of foreboding that I can't shake about this game. I think it truly is that dome.

Click here to destroy wall.

I have been a regular visitor to the Syracuse Site, Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician, and they had an article about our series with Syracuse. It is so weird; apparently the home team usually wins the game in this series. #BudFu you are our only hope to break this curse!

Go Hokies!

If I recall correctly, Tulsa's offense was top 10 and loaded with veterans who had developed in that system. Syracuse's is not either of those things.

That would be comforting if it were true, but unfortunately, Philip Montgomery 1st season at Tulsa as head coach was the 2015 season. This year/season is his second.

Tulsa Golden Hurricanes Head Coaches...

#FactSucks ;p

Go Hokies!

Well that turned out to be accurate...

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

And I am not very happy that my gut was correct.... :(

Go Hokies!

As someone who went to VCU I keep reading HAVOC and think of Shaka Smart and basketball.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

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